What is it?
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolis) grows mainly in North America. Ginseng is an aromatic, perennial, herbaceous plant. It has a fleshy, fusiform root and solitary stem that grows 4-20 inches tall. It has greenish-white flowers and bright red berries. Ginseng grows in deciduous woods throughout much of the eastern United States and Canada. Wild American ginseng root is in such high demand that it has been declared a threatened or endangered species in some areas of the US.
It has been traditionally used by people worldwide as a general health tonic to enhance mental and physical performance. It is used to reduce stress, to boost the immune system, and as a stimulant. It is thought to have a toning effect on adrenal responses by balancing the body's response to physical and emotional stress.
American Ginseng is considerred to be a herbal adaptogen - a class of metabolic regulators (or a natural origin) which have been shown to increase the individual's resistance and adaptive ability with a broad spectrum of harmful stress factors of different physical, chemical, and biological natures.
Several clinical studies have also found that american ginseng improves cell function related to boosting the immune system, helping the body to resist / fight disease and infections.
Research presented by the Mayo Clinic at the 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting found that american ginseng, when used daily for two months, helped ease exhaustion in breast cancer patients undergoing treatment. A similar study was done and presented at the 2007 annual meeting.
In the studies, participants were given 2000 mg of pure powdered american ginseng root in a capsule as opposed to the liquid forms commonly called ‘tinctures’ and processed with ethanol. While the use of ginseng tinctures in the US is common, the ethanol makes them not appropriate for breast cancer patients. The active ingredient in pure ginseng powder - ginsenosides - may help support the immune system and balance the adrenal glands stress response and cortisol production.
Are there any potential interactions with medications?
Medications for diabetes (Anti-diabetes drugs)
American ginseng might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking american ginseng along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.
Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.
Medications that decrease the immune system (Immuno-suppressants)
American ginseng might increase the immune system. Taking american ginseng along with some medications that decrease the immune system might decrease the effectiveness of these medications.
Some medications that decrease the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), and other corticosteroids (glucocorticoids).